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Facing a lot of trouble with busy basslines...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by The Big, Mar 26, 2021.

  1. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Woke up today, decided to learn Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." Not the Wooten version. Surprisingly, learning that to a recognizable level was easier than the original. The original is downright murderous...

    I can physically play it. But my mind strays and just plain can't remember/comprehend what's going on. Even with a tab, my eyes get overwhelmed, my ears get trashed and I just lose my footing. The A section is straight-forward enough, but the B section is way beyond me. My brain has to keep up with my hands. I'm trying to recognize which chord I'm on, what I'm actually doing at ~130bpm. Slowing down to 70 makes me second-guess myself and lose track as well.
    I realized after about an hour of struggling to remember anything that it's not just this song. I admit, I'm a very loop-based player. It's a real hindrance, I blame it on my reliance on patterns in DAWs.

    Another example of a downright impossible, but not all that technical line is Bowie's "Space Oddity." I can technically pull off all the licks and fills, but my brain loses track within seconds and my hands start improvising (poorly).

    Does anyone else experience this? Anyone manage to overcome it? I had childhood ADHD, a strong case, left it unmedicated. Feels like a thick fog and a million unrelated thoughts. Should I actually try to fight it or just stick to more basic stuff? I want to play melodically, but my brain ditches everything it learns beyond rudimentary muscle memory.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2021
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Good description of whatever it is I've got (informally diagnosed as high functioning autism / Asperger's). Not a deficit of anything, more of a surfeit of connections / thoughts / noise that's hard to cut through. Or as Johnny / Trent sang:
    "I wear this crown of thorns
    Upon my liar's chair
    Full of broken thoughts
    I cannot repair"
  3. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Yeah that's right isn't it. Noise. You start playing, but then the other stuff kicks in. "Mind your fret buzz," "It'd be cool to busk this with my singer/guitarist buddy," "Gonna need to buy a battery amp for that," "I wonder what mic he'd use," "Mind your fret buzz, b*tch-boy," "Here comes the B section, hit the open A," "I forgot to do my sit-ups this morning," "How is it 2PM already?" "I wonder when the Breakbeats will arrive," "Is that cymbal dirty again? I polished it yesterday," "Edited up the walk, restart."

    All of that at once. It's so tiring! Have you succeeded in cutting through it somehow?
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2021
  4. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    What I find helps me sometimes is to take the instrument out of the equation. Can you sing the bassline to the entire song? Maybe focus on that for a bit so it's really in your head. Also, just try looping sections. Record your computer audio in to your DAW and then just loop sections until you have them ingrained, maybe play through them for 20mins at a time so it's really in there!
  5. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    That's how I usually end up breaking through. I transcribe the A and the B, play them exactly the same way until I can't get them wrong and only then worry about variations and embellishments. Just takes forever. Days to learn a busy line decently, if not over a week. This and Space Oddity, however, are truly a step up.

    Never considered the singing thing. Recently I discovered that mumbling helps a ton when learning complex drum parts in odd time sigs. Suppose it wouldn't hurt to try it with bass as well. Suppose it makes sense. Talking/humming/singing forces the brain to concentrate, doesn't leave room for pesky inner voices.
  6. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    For Once In My Life is even worse! Jamerson never plays the same thing twice. It's insane. I never managed to get that down note for note, it's a true masterpiece.

    Yeah the singing helps me get stuff in my head a bit more.

  7. Tried that with Crisis by Jaco Pastorius and my head exploded. :D
  8. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Lucky! It's the opposite for me. The more generic, loopy and basic the line, the easier for me it is to really get into it, feel it and add my own touch to it. When it's complicated, I have to focus all my brain-bits on not screwing it up and often end up sounding rigid.

    Well I'm shocked! It worked. Just sang the line as I played it, and got through a fair bit without losing track. Granted, I need a tab, made a bunch of mistakes and it's still far from smooth, but I didn't get lost at all. It sat just right.
  9. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    I've always wondered if they even play their part the same way twice. Geezer Butler is another example. He's my personal bass hero. Gave up memorizing his stuff note-for-note, just improvise nowadays, though it's a lot easier than any Jamerson stuff.
  10. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    I reckon these types of lines the bassist is just given a chord sheet and they just play whatever. So yeah he probably couldn't play it the same again if he tried.

    I think it's more valuable to mimic that...just improvise it. Easier said than done of course!
    MCF, MattZilla, thetragichero and 3 others like this.
  11. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    I feel the same way. Memorizing a part note-for-note is great for learning the feel of the song (or for a very strict cover project), but when it comes down to performance, it's just so much smoother to let the hands take over. Now getting those licks and arpeggios ingrained to that degree, that's a rough journey.
  12. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    I was just playing I Keep Forgettin' (Every time you're near) by Michael McDonald, and was just doing the same. There's obviously the line that has to be played note for note, but the rest can be improvised, so that's what I was doing - trying to just understand the chord changes and lay a nice groove down myself. I wont lie, i struggle with it a lot, but I have a lot of patience thankfully. I'm sure in 10 years I'll be good at it :)
    PWRL and The Big like this.
  13. These are fairly challenging songs. How long have you been playing? If you haven't been playing for awhile and don't have good feel/ear these songs will be difficult to play for you. Best advice if you really want to learn them note for note is go slow and break them down into sections. Work on just the intro to Space Oddity, or the verse of Isn't She Lovely. Don'tg o beyond that until you can nail those parts. learn the chord change inside and out for each section.
    IF you really want to learn those songs, if you just want to jam with them, then just write out a chord chart and use that while playing.
    I have played in MANY cover bands, and IME there are songs worth learning really close to the original and some that fine improvising other then key bass parts.
    The Big and WrapRough like this.
  14. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Patience is a great virtue. Color me jealous.

    It's either gonna be my 2nd or 3d bass anniversary this May. I'm not actually sure to be honest with you. I'm at that stage where a lot of stuff is either ridiculously easy or ridiculously hard.

    Seems about right, yeah. I can nail the verse part, since it's just roots and mostly chromatic walks, but the more melodic stuff is tough. It's unpredictable, so I actually have to think about what I'm doing, and that's honestly a real challenge. I'm not much of a thinker, these here brain cells are strictly for decorative purposes.

    Breaking it down and literally going bar by bar is the only real way to learn them for me. Putting it together is a challenge in its own right...
    Garagiste and obimark like this.
  15. Don't be frustrated but understand it may be 10-years experience before you can nail these parts. the guys who recorded them are MONSTER players. I have played for 25 years and can just barely do those songs justice, and that is with practice brushing up on them.
    Alex Bass, SoCal80s and groovepump like this.
  16. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    You know, I do forget that a lot. The past 2 years feel like an eternity. So much happened. Picked up bass, drums, guitar, started producing, writing, learned a whole bunch of theory, cycled between like 4-5 bands, spent more money than I'm willing to admit. It's honestly been a huge, amazing experience (lots of self-deprecation too, of course). Easy to forget that I'm actually still very, very green, and the best is yet to come.

    I expect pro-level performance out of myself and beat myself when it ain't that. On one hand, I should probably adjust my expectations. On the other, it's one hell of a motivator. Give me a Terence Fletcher to hurl chairs at me and I'll be set.
    bholder and obimark like this.
  17. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    This is why things in life like being able to play an instrument are so rewarding - there are just no shortcuts. I think Youtube has a lot to do with making people feel like they suck. We see these amazing performances but forget that they've busted their arses for years and years to get to that stage, and also probably made 10 attempts before getting a clean run for the video.
  18. SLPimp

    SLPimp An Injury to One is an Injury to All Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2020
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    DeepHz and Alex Bass like this.
  19. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    Never heard that song. By which band?
    DeepHz and Alex Bass like this.
  20. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I have issues with long, fast moving phrases - can't think fast enough to remember what is next after a few seconds. Sometimes it happens over a repetitive phrase too. I'll play the phrase fine a couple times and then start stumbling and then - forget about it. It's like I need a brief pause to regroup the coordination between my head and fingers every 8-10 notes on fast passages.
    The Big likes this.
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